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He moved slowly down the aisle, pausing at each seat to bless and embrace before he left the plane. The plane taxied onto the runway and roared aloft, He watched until it disappeared from view in the evening sky. Afterward, he drove back to the abbey and to the remainder of his flock. While aboard the plane, he had spoken as if the destiny of Brother Joshua's group were as clear-cut as the prayers prescribed for tomorrow's Office; but both he and they knew that he had only been reading the palm of a plan, had been describing a hope and not a certainty. For Brother Joshua's group had only begun the first short lap of a long and doubtful journey, a new Exodus from Egypt under the auspices of a God who must surely be very weary of the race of Man.

Due process, they call it, he growled. "Due process of mass, state-sponsored suicide. With all of society's blessings."

You will be years in space. The ship will be your monastery. After the patriarchal see is established at the Centaurus Colony, you will establish there a mother house the Visitationist Friars of the Order of Saint Leibowitz of Tycho. But the ship will remain in your hands, and the Memorabilia. If civilization, or a vestige of it, can maintain itself on Centaurus, you will send missions to the other colony worlds, and perhaps eventually to the colonies of their colonies. Wherever Man goes, yon and your successors will go. And with you, the records and remembrances of four thousand years and more. Some of you, or those to come after you, will be mendicants and wanderers, teaching the chronicles of Earth and the canticles of the Crucified to the peoples and the cultures that may grow out of the colony groups. For some may forget. Some may be lost for a time from the Faith. Teach them, and receive into the Order those among them who are called. Pass on to them the continuity. Be for Man the memory of Earth and Origin. Remember this Earth. Never forget her, but-never come back. Zerchi's voice went hoarse and low. "If you ever come back, you might meet the Archangel at the east end of Earth, guarding her passes with a sword of flame. I feel it. Space is your home hereafter. It's a lonelier desert than ours. God bless you, and pray for us."

Those who stayed behind had the easier part. Theirs was but to wait for the end and pray that it would not come.

The latest death toll estimate, the announcer continued, "on this ninth day after the destruction of the capital, gives two million, eight hundred thousand dead. More than half of this figure is from the population of the city proper. The rest is an estimate based on the percentage of the population in the fringe and fallout areas known to have received critical doses of radiation. Experts predict that the estimate will rise as more radiation cases are reported.

Accipiam, the monk repeated.

He moved slowly down the aisle, pausing at each seat to bless and embrace before he left the plane. The plane taxied onto the runway and roared aloft, He watched until it disappeared from view in the evening sky. Afterward, he drove back to the abbey and to the remainder of his flock. While aboard the plane, he had spoken as if the destiny of Brother Joshua's group were as clear-cut as the prayers prescribed for tomorrow's Office; but both he and they knew that he had only been reading the palm of a plan, had been describing a hope and not a certainty. For Brother Joshua's group had only begun the first short lap of a long and doubtful journey, a new Exodus from Egypt under the auspices of a God who must surely be very weary of the race of Man.

Well, said the visitor, "it's certainly better than letting them die horribly, by degrees."

"With you goes the Memorabilia. With you also goes the apostolic succession, and, perhaps-the Chair of Peter.

He watched two novices carrying a steaming cauldron out of the emergence kitchen. They hoisted it onto a table and began ladling out soup.

Afterward, the conventual Mass was a Mass for Pilgrims and Travelers.

The latest death toll estimate, the announcer continued, "on this ninth day after the destruction of the capital, gives two million, eight hundred thousand dead. More than half of this figure is from the population of the city proper. The rest is an estimate based on the percentage of the population in the fringe and fallout areas known to have received critical doses of radiation. Experts predict that the estimate will rise as more radiation cases are reported.

He watched two novices carrying a steaming cauldron out of the emergence kitchen. They hoisted it onto a table and began ladling out soup.

You are the continuity of the Order, he told them.

Abruptly, and with such force that he twisted the dial knob free of its shaft, Zerchi switched off the receiver. He swung himself out of his chair and went to stand at the window and look down on the courtyard where a crowd of refugees were milling around several hastily built wooden tables: The abbey, old and new, was overrun by people of all ages and stations whose homes had been in the blighted regions. The abbot had temporarily readjusted the "cloistered" areas of the abbey to give the refugees access to virtually everything except the monks' sleeping quarters. The sign outside the old gate had been removed, for there were women and children to be fed, clothed, and given shelter.

Is it? Better for whom? The street cleaners? Better to have your living corpses walk to a central disposal station while they can still walk? Less public spectacle? Less horror lying around? Less disorder? A few million corpses lying around might start a rebellion against those responsible. That's what you and the government mean by better, isn't it?

Is it? Better for whom? The street cleaners? Better to have your living corpses walk to a central disposal station while they can still walk? Less public spectacle? Less horror lying around? Less disorder? A few million corpses lying around might start a rebellion against those responsible. That's what you and the government mean by better, isn't it?

You are the continuity of the Order, he told them.

"With you goes the Memorabilia. With you also goes the apostolic succession, and, perhaps-the Chair of Peter.

Well enough.

The abbot smiled. "You heard me badly. I said "burden," not 'honor." Crucis autem onus si audisti ut honorem, nihilo errasti auribus."

The area affected by local fallout remains relatively stationary, said the announcer, "and the danger of further windspread has nearly vanished...."

Abruptly, and with such force that he twisted the dial knob free of its shaft, Zerchi switched off the receiver. He swung himself out of his chair and went to stand at the window and look down on the courtyard where a crowd of refugees were milling around several hastily built wooden tables: The abbey, old and new, was overrun by people of all ages and stations whose homes had been in the blighted regions. The abbot had temporarily readjusted the "cloistered" areas of the abbey to give the refugees access to virtually everything except the monks' sleeping quarters. The sign outside the old gate had been removed, for there were women and children to be fed, clothed, and given shelter.

Abruptly, and with such force that he twisted the dial knob free of its shaft, Zerchi switched off the receiver. He swung himself out of his chair and went to stand at the window and look down on the courtyard where a crowd of refugees were milling around several hastily built wooden tables: The abbey, old and new, was overrun by people of all ages and stations whose homes had been in the blighted regions. The abbot had temporarily readjusted the "cloistered" areas of the abbey to give the refugees access to virtually everything except the monks' sleeping quarters. The sign outside the old gate had been removed, for there were women and children to be fed, clothed, and given shelter.

Abruptly, and with such force that he twisted the dial knob free of its shaft, Zerchi switched off the receiver. He swung himself out of his chair and went to stand at the window and look down on the courtyard where a crowd of refugees were milling around several hastily built wooden tables: The abbey, old and new, was overrun by people of all ages and stations whose homes had been in the blighted regions. The abbot had temporarily readjusted the "cloistered" areas of the abbey to give the refugees access to virtually everything except the monks' sleeping quarters. The sign outside the old gate had been removed, for there were women and children to be fed, clothed, and given shelter.

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